Wednesday, October 31, 2012

VHS Gems: Halloween Hoedown (by Zack Carlson)

Zack Carlson is a gentleman among slothy, frothy psychopaths(and a longtime friend of RPS). He has articulately demonstrated his Halloween spirit by putting together the remarkable list of VHS classics below.
 (Zack is the ringmaster of the Alamo Drafthouse's cute and cuddly Terror Tuesday  film series(as well as Zzang!!!))
Check out his other RPS lists too!

http://rupertpupkinspeaks.blogspot.com/2010/10/guest-list-zack-carlson.html
http://rupertpupkinspeaks.blogspot.com/2011/01/zack-carlsons-top-ten-films-seen-in.html
http://rupertpupkinspeaks.blogspot.com/2012/01/zack-carlsons-favorite-older-films-seen.html


************

Goddangit. Many of my pals n' colleagues have already understandably swooped on some of the top VHS-only horror titles (i.e. THE TOWER, THE RITUAL OF DEATH), but there's still plenty of DVD-free whoopery to go around on this unholy night. The following are 13 unstoppable examples of the form, destined to shiver your timbers without the crutch of post-'80s technology!




THE KILLING OF SATAN
(Dir. Efren C. PiƱon, 1983)
Don't be fooled by the crummy bootleg DVD on Amazon. This movie is pure, unrelenting, big box VHS Filipino fury!! A middle-aged man named Lando uses his magic elbow to defeat an army of Satan's minions, and then takes on the Big Red One himself in fearless hand-to-hand, lazer-eye combat. A heapin' helpin' of South Seas mythology mixes with '80s effects to send this one into the thermonuclear wildzone.



 HACK-O-LANTERN
(Dir. Jag Mundhra, 1988)
A child is led to the occult by his Satanic grandfather (power-ham Hy Pyke), who operates under the guise of a lowly pumpkin salesman. As the boy becomes a man, he allows heavy metal cassettes to pull him further into the abyss. On Halloween night, he's expected to fulfill his dark destiny. This movie features heartbreaking nudity, live rock and stand-up comedy, each equally awful but as endearing as a legless kitten.



 ROCKTOBER BLOOD
(Dir. Beverly Sebastian, 1984)
Continuing with rock horror! Second only to the venerable TRICK OR TREAT in pure metalpower, this thrasher-slasher from the married couple behind the GATOR BAIT films features an undead shredder returning to annihilate his former bandmates, punctuating each vicious homicide with a piercing rock n' roll shriek. Hairifying!



 THE WILD BEASTS
(Dir. Franco Prosperi, 1984)
Those goshdarn drug dealers have gone and flushed all their PCP straight down the terlet! Naturally, the narcoticized sewage line links directly to the local zoo's drinking water, and all the animals find themselves all jiggered up and ready to rage! Watch a spun-up cheetah knock a motorcyclist off his hog at 65 MPH! He's all like "Daaamn"!!



 THE VIDEO DEAD
(Dir. Robert Scott, 1987)
The VHS-era life-remover that rewrote the rules of post-mortem warfare. These combative corpses exit through your picture tube and can only be defeated if you shoot them with three arrows. Homemade horror majesty to the ultramax. 
NOTE: There's a fakey unofficial DVD version on Amazon that looks like poop. Don't bite the hook.



 WHERE HAVE ALL THE PEOPLE GONE?
(Dir. John Llewellyn Moxey, 1974)
TV-movie misanthropy starring Peter Graves (KILLERS FROM SPACE; POOR WHITE TRASH) as a well-meaning schlub who wakes up to an unpopulated Earth. Plenty of wasteland-wandering and city-spelunking in the not-so-ruined ruins of civilization. A masterpiece of Cold War end-days paranoia. The only thing more terrifying is a world with all the shitty, worthless people still in it.



 LINNEA QUIGLEY'S HORROR WORKOUT
(Dir. Kenneth J. Hall, 1990)
I really couldn't care less about cleavage and suggestive aerobics, but I can watch guys in rubber monster masks jump up and down all week long.



 HAUNTEDWEEN
(Dir.Doug Robertson, 1991)
The absolute stinkiest play-on-words in VHS history! Also, a primitive slash-crazy mangulator concerning a Halloween funhouse being stalked by a vengeance-fueled nutzapoid.



 OPERACION CHOCOLATE
(Dir. Jose Alcalde, 1984)
This decades-late Mexican lift of The Little Rascals features adorable chubby-cheeked munchkins racing shopping carts and irritating Dracula. The world's most malevolent bloodsucker basically plays Mr. Wilson to their Dennis the Menace. As a dumb white person, I can't tell what anyone in this movie is saying, but I bet they're slingin' some real humdingers 'cuz Dracula's pisssssed!!



 PRISON
(Dir. Renny Harlin, 1988)
Viggo Mortensen removes his shirt as often as possible to do battle with a possessed prison that mutilates, broils and electrocutes its inmates. From the director of DIE HARD II and several additional movies that aren't as good as PRISON.



 THE MUMMY AND THE CURSE OF THE JACKAL
(Dir. Oliver Drake, 1969)
A herd of drunk uncles stumble around Las Vegas wrapped in toilet paper and Egyptian jewelry. Essential!!



 DEATH SPA
(Dir. Michael Fischa, 1989)
A furious dead witch possesses a gigantic, rectangular computer to unleash her wrath on a workout gym. Originally titled "Witch Bitch," and featuring an iconic moment where a weight machine tears open a beefy fella's ribcage just like it's no big thing.



 DEVIL STORY
(Dir. Bernard Launois, 1985)
I mentioned this one in a column here a couple years back, but I just can't leave it off this list. Mainly because this French slasher-Nazi transdimensional mummy opus with man-eating crabgrass and a ghost horse will forever alter your comprehension of movies. And film synopses.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

VHS Gems Guest Post: Brian Kelley

Brian Kelley is also know as BTSJUNKIE and he can be found on twitter under that handle.
https://twitter.com/BTSjunkie



 PSYCHO FROM TEXAS (1975)
Also known as WHEELER/THE BUTCHER/THE HURTING/THE MAMA'S BOY, this trashy Southern thriller features a stunning performance by the mysterious John King III, Linnea Quiqley's first screen role, a catchy-as-hell theme song and one of the greatest foot chases ever captured on film. A must-see if there ever was one.



HOMEBODIES (1974)
When a gaggle of Cincinnati pensioners learn their building is being torn down to make room for shiny new apartments they take matters into their own hands, dispatching those that get in their way in surprisingly effective ways. While HOMEBODIES delivers on the geriatric slasher promises of its one line description, there's actually a competent dramatic core allegory about the way we dispose of our elderly making the film effective on many levels.



TAMMY AND THE T-REX (1994)
Anytime I'm asked to write one of these I try to sneak in TAMMY AND THE T-REX. Lion-mauled Paul Walker has his brain transplanted into an animatronic dinosaur and tries to rekindle his relationship with Denise Richards. The pleasures of this film are too numerous to list, it's one of Sewart Raffill's (MAC AND ME, STANDING OVATION) best!



 THE TOWER (1993)
It's pissed off building vs. doofus Paul Reiser in this made-for-TV gem of futuristic filmmaking... ... ... ... ... ... what? That's it.



 SUDDEN FURY (1975)
When foolishly opportunistic Fred and his wife Janet get into a fight over a rather shady land deal while driving, the car ends up tumbling down a ravine. Supreme bastard Fred leaves bleeding-to-death Janet in the car hoping he will be rid of her forever and gain a fat insurance payout. However, when a passerby finds Janet and gets himself covered in her blood, he has no choice but to hunt down the now fleeing Fred in order to keep himself from being pegged for the crime. It's a low-budget Canadia cat-and-mouse thriller full of plenty of sleaze and damn fine performances. The Greek VHS from Plus Video Home Entertainment has one of my favorite stingers that lifts a rather appropriate song for the movie to follow.





More things I like:


MURDER BY PHONE (1982)


 NAKED VENGEANCE (1985)



THE INVISIBLE KID (1988)



COTO DE CAZA aka CODE OF HUNTING (1983)



ELVES (1989)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Warner Archive Pick of the Week: THE PHYNX

This is a real rarity and according to the gents on the Warner Archive Podcast, it didn't get much of an official release at all at the time it came out. Many many folks will be seeing this for the first time here and it certainly makes an impression. My first thoughts were of Rowan and Martin for some reason(perhaps the late 60s/early 70s aesthetic/humor) which of course led me to recall a recent viewing of THE MALTESE BIPPY, which disappointed me. This film is much zanier and funnier than THE MALTESE BIPPY for sure and ended up being more like a melting pot of A HARD DAY'S NIGHT, THE NUDE BOMB and a dash of The Monkees' HEAD. Very wacky, spoofy and bursting with the fruit flavor of cameos. Check out this mind-blowing list list of walk-ons:
Joan Blondell
Martha Raye
Busby Berkeley
Ruby Keeler
Joe Louis
Maureen O'Sullivan
Ed Sullivan 
James Brown
Richard Pryor
Guy Lombardo
Dick Clark
Rudy Vallee
Johnny Weissmuller
Clint Walker
Dorothy Lamour
Trini Lopez
Sally Struthers...
The plot you ask? It's an extremely silly concoction of a story about a group called the SSA(Super Secret Agency) creating a rock band in order to get them invited to Albania to rescue some kidnapped world leaders. I must say the film is a hoot though. Totally random, totally out there, but out there in that enjoyable, freewheeling way that was a big part of this period. Well worth discovering. See the preview clip below to get the flavor.

Buy it   HERE!




Thursday, October 25, 2012

VHS Gems Guest Post: Steve Scarlata

I’m a huge fan of VHS. Growing up in the 80’s, I spent most of my days riding my bike around, renting movies from four separate video stores around Long Island. Every time my family would stop at a strip mall, I had to run in to the local video store and see what movies they carried. I was a movie fiend. To this day I still search for videos I remember seeing at those video stores.
This list comprises of the VHS tapes I have in my collection, not available on DVD.



TOUGHER THAN LEATHER (1988)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0096291/
1988 was just pure madness. One of my favorite years of oddball cinema. So many unique films were popping up in my local theatres like Action Jackson, Dead Heat, Maniac Cop, Phantasm 2, Mac and Me, Night of the Demons. VHS was exploding with films like Killer Klowns From Outer Space, Paramedics, Waxwork, Rejuvenatrix, Force of the Ninja and the Wing Hauser classic The Carpenter.
Tougher Than Leather is a straight up 1980’s blaxploitation movie that fits right in this beautiful year. Tougher Than Leather feels like Rick Ruban took blaxploitation 101 and got a C. Every white man is a bad guy. Run DMC are just terrible playing themselves, Beastie Boys show up for lunch, every Def Jam artist is played in the back round.
Acording to Wikipedia, Tougher Than Leather was briefly available on VHS, but went out of print within two years due to poor sales and a rumored injunction by the Beastie Boys and Capital Records, their new label. For this reason, it is almost certain that New Line will never release it on DVD.




 NAKED CAGE (1986)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0091603/
This movie is so sleazy, the chicks sweat baby oil.
I remember waiting on line to see The Hitcher and staring at this poster in the lobby. Fixating on the word NAKED then the word CAGE. The poster looked sic, chicks with guns and prison riots. I was like man, I should have asked my dad to take me to see this instead.
My local video stores never carried it and I never caught it on cable. Years later I found it on ebay and finally was able to watch it. Loved it. Just as raunchy as Reform School Girls, but way less campy.



 THE DUNGEONMASTER (1984)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0089060/
If you’re a fan of Tron and that Emilio Estevez video game segment of Nightmares, and bad movies in general, you may want to seek this fun film out. There’s something like seven segments, which kind of creates multiple versions of Charles Band movies rolled into one cheesy good time. Rock monsters, zombies, cave beasts, Richard Moll and Blakie Lawless of W.A.S.P. battle it out with Jeffrey Byron, the poor mans Miles O’Keefe.



STRYKER (1983)​
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086381/
Anther post apocalyptic casualty that never made it to VHS. The hero looks like a cross between Kip Winger and the star of Megaforce. I try to collect films like this and 1990 Bronx Warriors, Escape From the Bronx, Warriors of the Wasteland on VHS just so I can replicate the back corner of the video store I’ve spent most of my time in growing up. I think the artwork alone I may love even more than the movies them selves.



 TREASURE OF THE FOUR CROWNS (1983)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0084781/
This movie is more extreme than Dorito Tacos dipped in Mountain Dew. The first 15 minutes of this film should be played in a loop in the museum of moving images, because it’s beautiful, this is art. Tony Anthony the man with two first names throws down the gauntlet by attempting to out do the opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark and takes it to the next level. Find it and watch the opening, and watch the very ending.



 UROTSUKIDOJI II: LEGEND OF THE DEMON WOMB (1993)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0108462/
The first extreme anime I have ever seen. I don’t think I ever watched this tape again since the first time I saw it in the mid 1990’s. The only memory that lingers is the Nazi Death Rape Machine. I don’t know what else to say about it. Maybe were all lucky it’s not out on DVD.

Monday, October 22, 2012

VHS Gems Guest Post Jeremy Richey

Jeremy Richey, the dedicated cinephile behind the fantastic film blog Moon In The Gutter (and the Jean Rollin tribute site Fascination), provided today's guest list. If you're not already reading Jeremy's stuff, I have to recommend you check it out. Here's his list!

The April Fools (1967): Stuart Rosenberg’s charming, silly and extremely funny Romantic comedy starring Jack Lemmon and Catherine Deneuve is one of my favorite all-time films and it pains me that it has still never found its way to DVD. A wonderful satirical snapshot of America in the late sixties, The April Fools benefits greatly from Rosenberg’s confident direction, the exuberant lead performances from Lemmon and Deneuve, its great Bacharach and David title-track and an extraordinary supporting cast including Jack Weston, Peter Lawford, Myrna Loy and Charles Boyer! The April Fools is a real buried treasure. 



Full Circle (1978): There is a terrible French DVD of Richard Loncraine’s mesmerizing adaptation of Peter Straub’s Julia starring a never-better Mia Farrow but the quality special edition disc it deserves is still missing. Perhaps there is finally hope for this masterful film as Netflix recently started streaming a wonderful HD print!




Une Femme Douce (1969): New Yorkers old VHS copy is still the only way to see Robert Bresson’s haunting masterpiece A Gentle Woman starring the lovely Dominique Sanda here in the States. This is one of the great films of the sixties and would be an ideal candidate for the Criterion Collection.


Of Human Bondage (1964): Ken Hughes and Kim Novak took a critical pounding for the 1964 Maugham’s update but I have always found it a particularly strange and haunting creation and Novak’s work here is particularly spectacular. 


Sweet Nothing (1996): Inspired by some anonymous diaries screenwriter Lee Drysdale found in an abandoned New York City loft in the early nineties, Gary Winick’s unsettling drama Sweet Nothing (1996) is a film that received much acclaim upon its release but has since all but disappeared from view. Fuelled by powerhouse performances by Michael Imperioli, Mira Sorvino and Paul Calderon, Sweet Nothing is a refreshingly subtle and low-key entry into the ‘drug film’ genre, and has been deserving of a much larger audience since it appeared and disappeared from screens in the fall of 1996.




Touched by Love (1980): Also known as To Elvis With Love, this really touching Canadian film marked the great Diane Lane’s introduction to the film-world. Based on a true story, Touched by Love still makes me cry every time I watch it and Lane is extraordinary in it. 



Angela, The Fireworks Woman (1975): In between his incredible The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes, Wes Craven directed this adult-feature under the name Abe Snake. Craven himself briefly appears alongside the likes of Jennifer Jordan, Eric Edwards, Marc Stevens and Jamie Gillis. More than just an oddity, Angela the Fireworks Woman is quite a powerful work and the original VCA tape is quite a collectable.

Friday, October 19, 2012

VHS Gems Guest Post: Matt Lynch

I hail from Seattle's Scarecrow Video, the greatest place on Earth, and like my colleague Laird Jimenez's list, mine would have been much easier to put together only a couple of years ago; the rise of MOD has brought a lot of great titles to light again, often with beautiful transfers we never could have expected previously. With that in mind, here are a few stragglers that haven't made the jump yet.

(note: Matt has just put out a Scarecrow Video Podcast dedicated to VHS Gems and I highly recommend it. Listen here:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/scarecrow-video-podcast/id442877975)





ARENA(1989): A great little sci-fi film about an intergalactic gladiatorial competition. Sort of a cross between THE RUNNING MAN and ENTER THE DRAGON. Jammed with incredible animatronics and makeup.




THE TAKING OF BEVERLY HILLS (1991): This is a thoroughly stupid DIE HARD knockoff featuring Ken Wahl as an ex-football player who teams up with cop Matt Frewer to stop a plot by a bunch of fired dirty cops who've staged a chemical spill in order to rob all of the rich folks in the titular neighborhood. The great Robert Davi is the bad guy. A seriously overlooked early 90's winner.




SCREAM FOR HELP(1984): I've gone on and on about this film, both on this site and on Scarecrow's podcast and will continue to do so. It's my favorite "bad" film of all time, an amazingly tasteless thriller from the master of tasteless thrillers, Michael Winner. Somebody get me a meeting with Edgar Wright so I can strap him to a chair and force him to see this.




ACTION USA(1989): probably the best of a rare strain of 80s films, the Stunt Demo Reel. Some experienced stunt people scrape together the funds to make their own film and the results are often glorious despite being saddled with hammy acting and even worst scripts. This one was produced by Ross Hagen (who also plays the bad guy) and also features William Smith and Cameron Mitchell. Almost everything in this movie is destroyed.




ELIMINATORS(1986): From Peter Manoogian, director of the aforementioned ARENA, comes this total treasure about a mad scientist who creates a cyborg warrior, here called a Mandroid, who rebels when facing destruction and must now stop his evil creator from travelling back in time and taking over the Roman Empire. You either want to see that or you don't. And you really do.




DROID(1988): On the surface an extremely low-budget dystopian Sci-Fi about a cop trying to bring down a fascist government, actually soft core porn.




ORDER OF THE BLACK EAGLE and UNMASKING THE IDOL: a couple of Bond knockoffs from the late 80s, starring Ian Hunter as secret agent Duncan Jax. These are incredibly campy but surprisingly effective spy thrillers with some impressive production value given the obvious low budget. There are a lot of fancy cars in these films, hence my suspicion that they were financed by an auto dealer, but that's neither here nor there. There may be a lot of humor in these films but it's important to note that they are not parodies. Instead you get a ton of smirking one-liners, borderline attractive women and cardboard sets, not to mention an obligatory hot-air balloon escape. 



 HEARTBEAT(1987): Possibly my favorite VHS-only experience is "Don Johnson's HEARTBEAT", the hour-long music video/film that accompanies Johnson's 1986 album of the same name. In the movie, Johnson plays a war photographer covering some South American revolution who is gravely wounded while trying to rescue a child caught in the crossfire. The movie is mostly made up of his extended near-death experience. The director, John Nicollela (potentially most notable credit: KULL THE CONQUEROR) produced and directed a lot of TV, including episodes of "Miami Vice", and HEARTBEAT has an appropriately knockoff-Michael Mann feel to it, a vibe that extends to its amazing supporting cast which includes Sandahl Bergman, Paul Shaffer, Lori Singer, David Carradine, Dweezil & Moon Unit Zappa, Willie Nelson, Luiz Guzman and Giancarlo Esposito. The music itself kind of reminds me of Don Henley's solo career. Pretty action-packed for a glorified music video vanity project; it's kind of bizarre to think of something like this getting made today, especially for an actor moonlighting as a rock star rather than vice versa. There's even a surprisingly explicit sex scene. All of that packed into a tight 65 minutes. Under no circumstances are you to miss this thing. 

(can be seen in parts on youtube!)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

VHS Gems Guest Post: Hal Horn

Read Hal Horn at The Horn Section Blog, one of my favorites:
http://hornsection.blogspot.com/

HAL HORN’S VHS GEMS: SEVENTIES SPOTLIGHT

I hope you’re enjoying this latest series as much as I am. While many of the lists so far focus on the 1980’s and 1990’s, I’d like to go back to my favorite decade of filmmaking, the 1970’s, with a particular focus on some examples from the Golden Age of movies made for television. As always, I'm honored to accept Rupert's invite!




MY SWEET CHARLIE (1970)
The late Al Freeman Jr. (he was 78 when he passed away in August) was best known to modern audiences as Elijah Muhammed in MALCOLM X, but he had his best leading role opposite Patty Duke in this Levinson-Link production that Leonard Maltin proclaimed “a television landmark”. Adapted from David Westheimer’s 1965 novel and Broadway play (it starred Bonnie Bedelia and Louis Gossett Jr.), MY SWEET CHARLIE told the tale of two runaways thrown together in a vacant vacation home near the coast in Galveston, TX. She’s white, he’s black. She’s a teen, he’s a lawyer in his thirties. She’s a bigoted southerner (her first line: “It’s a nigger!”) and he’s a newly militant northerner. Freeman is on the run from a murder charge; Duke was kicked out of her home for being unwed and pregnant. After choosing the same hideaway, they soon realize they need each other to survive. Contempt and prejudice gradually turns into mutual respect, and then a platonic romance.

While the novel is excellent (Westheimer also wrote VON RYAN’S EXPRESS) it is this made for TV movie that is remembered today. A massive hit when it aired in January 1970 (a 48 share), MY SWEET CHARLIE earned theatrical showings in those pre-VCR days, almost unheard of for a film everyone had already seen in their homes (BRIAN’S SONG was among the other telefilms that did). Essentially a two character piece that goes nearly ten minutes without dialogue at the outset, the film gave Duke her first acclaimed performance as an adult (sorely needed after her VALLEY OF THE DOLLS miscasting), earning the actress her first Emmy. MY SWEET CHARLIE also opened a decade of astoundingly high quality products from the estimable team of Richard Levinson and William Link (COLUMBO, THAT CERTAIN SUMMER) but curiously remains missing from DVD. The 1986 VHS release from MCA-TV fetches high prices on Ebay and Amazon, and deservedly so. Four decades later, it remains one of the finest films ever made for U.S. television. Highly recommended. Filmed on location in Bolivar, TX.




TRIBES (1970)
Another excellent movie originally made for TV in the early Seventies. It occasionally turns up on Fox Movie Channel, but still hasn’t made it to DVD. Perhaps Jan-Michael Vincent’s hippie character makes it something of a period piece, but the theme is timeless and the questions raised by the film still relevant. Vincent is drafted into the Marines and naturally finds himself at odds with DI Darren McGavin. Vincent draws on his internal strength to excel at camp, impressing the DI and even exhibiting unique leadership during the grueling physical tests. Then he’s asked to fire a rifle.

A fascinating study of the individual’s resistance of state control, the limits of said resistance, and the spread of ideas--Vincent’s influence on the DI appears to have a lasting impact. Skillfully directed by Joseph Sargent (THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE), superbly acted by the two leads and very worthy of rediscovery. TRIBES also received theatrical showings after its television premiere (as THE SOLDIER WHO DECLARED PEACE overseas) and the 1988 VHS release now goes for $45 at Amazon.




 HONKY (1971)
This adaptation of the Gunard Solberg novel is a dated depiction of a doomed interracial romance that gives gorgeous Brenda Sykes a rare lead and is scored by Quincy Jones. Sykes and John Nelson are high schoolers not only from different races and classes (his family is poor, hers affluent) who fall in love. Prejudice overshadows their union at every turn, and they dream of running away to California, with their adventurous relationship progressing into criminal mischief. William A. Graham’s film is pessimistic at every turn and very hard to find but well worth a look for a great cast that includes Sykes, Marion Ross, William Marshall (BLACULA) and the underrated Lincoln Kilpatrick (Graham’s TOGETHER BROTHERS). More of a curio than a true gem: MY SWEET CHARLIE, it ain’t. Like THE LANDLORD and GEORGIA, GEORGIA, HONKY looks at interracial relationships a few short years after Loving v. Virginia. The title certainly doesn’t help its visibility these days. VHS tapes (mine is a clamshell-talk about old school) go for about $25 on Amazon.





NORMAN…IS THAT YOU? (1976)
The only feature film directed by LAUGH-IN mogul George Schlatter and the only attempt to transfer Redd Foxx’s SANFORD AND SON success to the silver screen. NORMAN…IS THAT YOU is a real cult curio, one of the few gay-themed features produced during the mid-Seventies. Shot on videotape and later transferred to 35MM, the film also features Michael Warren, Pearl Bailey, Dennis Dugan (later Adam Sandler’s go-to director) and gorgeous Tamara Dobson in a blonde wig and her only comedic role. Foxx goes to visit son Warren after wife Bailey leaves him for his brother. He’s further traumatized to learn that Warren is gay (and living with Dugan) and determines to “straighten him out” with an assist from hooker Dobson.

NORMAN was released on VHS by MGM/UA in 1994 and 1999 (the second as part of the “Soul Cinema” series) but is inexplicably still missing from DVD. While no classic, it has a cult following (Peary gives it the "CM" label) and is worth watching. Foxx is at his salty best and has good comic chemistry with the outrageously stereotypical Dugan. Schlatter’s direction is predictably sitcom-ish, and Wayland Flowers makes his only feature film appearance, with Madame in tow of course. As it turns out, a little of the ventriliquist goes a long way, but NORMAN is interesting enough to warrant a re-watch. Smokey Robinson and Thelma Houston are among the soundtrack contributors.





NIGHTMARE IN BADHAM COUNTY (1976)
A legendary made for TV sickie that lifts liberally from DELIVERANCE, MACON COUNTY LINE and the numerous Women In Prison movies that saturated drive-ins, NIGHTMARE IN BADHAM COUNTY is still missing from DVD. The Vidmark VHS will set you back $30 at Amazon. Deborah Raffin and Lynne Moody are fresh-faced coeds who unwisely run afoul of corrupt sheriff Chuck Connors when their spring break road trip stops in a small town. Railroaded in Ralph Bellamy’s court, they end up sent to a work farm, with the usual WIP staples of forced lesbianism, murder, white slavery, and statutory rape by the warden (Robert Reed!). Originally with “made for TV” limitations, of course. NIGHTMARE IN BADHAM COUNTY was popular enough that the filmmakers shot additional scenes featuring nudity and more explicit lesbianism for theatrical release overseas, and it is said that NIGHTMARE was so successful in China that star Deborah Raffin became Hollywood’s unofficial ambassador to the country. Many of the stars probably wouldn’t have appeared in one of Jack Hill’s R-rated genre classics. The cast also includes Tina Louise, Della Reese, Lana Wood and an over the top Fionnula Flanagan. Well worth seeking out in either of its incarnations, NIGHTMARE IN BADHAM COUNTY is easily the most memorable television stab at the WIP genre.




MURDER BY NATURAL CAUSES (1979)
Earlier I noted that Levinson and Link opened a decade of astoundingly high quality projects with MY SWEET CHARLIE. They ended it with another classic, this one from their specialty, the murder mystery. Hal Holbrook is a mentalist married to Katherine Ross, who’s having an affair with struggling young actor Barry Bostwick. The adulterers plan to use Holbrook’s weak heart against him, with Bostwick playing a reporter in the titular plot. This marvelously scripted telefilm leads the audience in a number of directions, most of them wrong, with lots of double (and triple) crossing among our trio. No landmark social statement here, just a damned good thriller that can stand with many that have ten times the budget and theatrical names in the cast. Another one that commands high prices for the VHS on Amazon; the Lightning Video release currently goes for $40.
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